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Western Animation / I Love to Singa

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We bet you’ve got the song in your head just looking at this.

"I Love to Singa" is a Merrie Melodies short directed by Tex Avery (or, as he is still credited here, "Fred Avery," with his animators, "Charles Jones" and Virgil Ross) that premiered on July 18, 1936.

The cartoon, very popular at the time, was designed to feature the eponymous tune by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg, has a plot mirroring that of Al Jolson's most famous film, The Jazz Singer; un-coincidentally, Jolson (with Cab Calloway) had introduced the song in a 1936 Warner Bros. feature, The Singing Kid.

"I Love to Singa" provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Jewish: The owls speak with heavy Teutonic (Yiddish?) accents; the plot is based on that of The Jazz Singer (Al Jolson himself was Jewish), which deals with the conflict between an Orthodox Jewish cantor and his son.
  • Animated Music Video: Many of the Warner Bros. shorts made at this time were designed to push the sales of songs that appeared in their feature films; this was no exception.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Almost none of the characters wear shoes, except Jack Bunny.
  • Be Yourself: The overall moral of the short, as it was Owl Jolson being his jazzy self that won the family the trophy.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Almost literally, as the protagonist retrieves his trophy from outside the black irised-in screen at the end.
  • Catchphrase: Professor Fritz Owl: "Enough is too much!"; Owl Jolson: "I love to singa!"
  • Cigar Chomper: Jack Bunny constantly has a cigar in his mouth.
  • Cute Owl: Owl Jolson himself is an innocent, idealistic child with dreams of becoming a jazz singer, with a ridiculously cute appearance to match.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Fritz Owl angrily kicks Owl Jolson out of his home because he loves to sing jazz. He immediately regrets his actions, though, and ultimately reconciles with Owl and his love of jazz by the end.
  • Fantasy-Forbidding Father: Fritz Owl disapproves of his son's dreams of singing jazz.
  • Feather Fingers: Able to play a variety of musical instruments
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Averted only in the "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" bird.
  • Funny Animal: All of the animals in the cartoon are shaped like real animals dressed in clothes.
  • Get Out!: Fritz Owl, in an act of impulsive anger, literally throws Owl Jolson out of his house and hurls insults at him afterward, solely because he won't stop singing jazz. He quickly comes to regret it.
    "Stop, STOP! Enough is too much! Out of my house, you hotcha! You crooner! You falsetto! You jazz singer! You... you... you...(Closes door; then opens it again) Phooey!"
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Most of the characters wear shirts or vests only.
  • Hopeless Auditionees: A line of them are trying out for Jack Bunny's radio talent show; however, averting the second part of this trope, he gives them no encouragement at all and unceremoniously dumps them through a Trap Door instead.
  • Iris Out: Subverted in a bit of fourth-wall tomfoolery.
  • Large Ham: The father does nothing small and his voice is booming.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Jack Bunny and Owl Jolson are take-offs on Jack Benny and Al Jolson, popular radio personalities of the day.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Mama Owl clearly has breasts under her form-fitting cardigan.
  • The Owl-Knowing One: Fritz. If not supremely wise is at least extremely cultured.
  • Pacing a Trench: As Owl Jolson was being born, Panicky Expectant Father Fritz was outside pacing around that formed into a rut.
  • Parody: The song is a parody of the clichés of popular songs of the era, with Harburg's lyrics using many stock phrases and rhymes that audiences were familiar with.
  • Pie-Eyed: All the characters, in a rare color example.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The owlets perform the beginnings of various classical works: the tenor part from the Sextette of Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor; Schumann's Träumerei: Felix Mendelssohn's Frühlingslied; and Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (words by Ben Jonson, melody anonymous). Some of the songs the auditioners perform include "Listen to the Mockingbird" (played on a harmonica), "Nola" (played on a saxophone) and "Turkey in the Straw" (played on an accordion).
  • Reference Overdosed: Harburg's lyrics for the middle section of the song need a lot of annotation:
    I was born a singin' fool-a,
    Ol' Major Bowes is gonna spot me,
    Got through Yale with boola-boola,
    Old microphone's got me!
    • The Singing Fool was the title of Al Jolson's second film after The Jazz Singer.
    • "Major Bowes" was the master of ceremonies of a popular radio amateur competition.
    • "Boola-boola" is the Yale University Fight Song.
    • "Old Rocking Chair's Got Me" is a song about an old man who spends all his time in a rocking chair, waiting to die.
  • Rock is Authentic, Pop is Shallow: Owl Jolson wants to sing popular music, but his parents, especially his father, don't approve and want him to embark on a classical career instead.
  • The Television Talks Back: Perhaps one of the earliest examples, although with a radio:
    Mama Owl: I vonder if they found my leetle boy!
    Police Radio: No, we didn't, lady!
  • Simpleton Voice: The "Simple Simon" stuttering bird (voiced by Joe Dougherty, who, at the time, was voicing Porky Pig).
  • Slapstick: The sequence in which Jack Bunny disposes of the talent show losers, ejecting them from the studio in amusing fashion via a Trap Door.
  • Standard Snippet: In addition to the title song, several other songs from the Warner library are heard.
    • The blackbird auditions by singing the title song from Laugh Clown Laugh.
    • The fat white hen attempts to sing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" before getting stuck in the trap door and being hammered down.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: All the owlets look exactly alike, except for Owl Jolson's red coat and blue tie.
  • Telegraph Gag STOP: As Owl Jolson is ready to perform, the receptionist at the station is reading a telegram.
    We just received another telegram, Station GONG. Stop. Your program coming in great. Stop. Think it's fine. Stop. Glad to hear your amateurs. Stop. They're all very funny. (camera pans back to show her continually pushing away the deliveryman as he keeps trying to hold her) Stop! Keep up the good work. Stop! Good luck. STOP! The gang. STOP! (she pushes him offscreen and he crashes)
  • Tertiary Sexual Characteristics: The female birds have eyelashes, to distinguish them from the males.
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Or feathers, in this case. When Fritz Owl throws his son out, his feathery face turns bright crimson from rage.
  • Title Drop: Every few seconds — Avery has the owlet restart the song several times, while other sections of the song are obscured, as if to drive the title of the short into the audience's head. Even Fritz Owl himself picks up on that particular line.
  • Toothy Bird: The Owl family and the stuttering bird.
  • Trap Door: How Jack Bunny disposes of the amateurs who fail their audition, after ringing his bell with a mallet.
  • Trap-Door Fail: The fat pigeon lady can't fit through the trap door, so Jack Bunny hits her on the head with his mallet to shove her through.
  • White Gloves: Jack Bunny wears them which gives him more in common with Bugs Bunny.
  • Whole-Plot Reference: The plot is based on that of Al Jolson's most famous film, The Jazz Singer, in which the father of the title character rejects his son for wishing to sing jazz music; however, there are at least a couple of key differences:
    • In Jazz Singer, the father and son are reconciled only at the father's death-bed, and the son sings the Mourner's Kaddish at his father's funeral.